Arizona’s Future Water Strategy is Collaborative


Last week, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey illustrated his strong and consistent leadership in addressing Arizona’s pressing water supply needs with two significant announcements. First, Governor Ducey appointed long-time water attorney and Gila River Indian Community member Rodney Lewis to Central Arizona Water Control Board. This appointment was widely applauded across the region as a positive step, most notably as a sign by Governor Ducey that including diverse voices within the management of the water district is a key component in moving the state towards improved sustainability and collaboration, both within Arizona and with regional partners in the Lower Colorado River Basin.

Also announced last week was an innovative long-term water management agreement between the State of Arizona, the Gila River Indian Community, City of Phoenix, and the Walton Family Foundation. The Cooperative Water Conservation Partnership, as it’s been called, will continue efforts to conserve water, serving as a foundation for a flexible and resilient water supply for many of Arizona’s 6 million residents, and shows the willingness of diverse water stakeholders to come together in order to help solve Arizona’s pressing water issues, starting with the health of the Colorado River system.

Mr. Lewis is a longtime water rights attorney and member of the Gila River Indian Community. He’s the first member of an Arizona Indian Tribe to gain admission to the Arizona State Bar, and famously led the negotiations that resulted in the Arizona Water Rights Settlements Act of 2004. At a time when Arizona and it’s Colorado River neighbors are working hard to find solutions to drought and dropping reservoir levels at Lake Mead, Mr. Lewis’ broad experience will be immensely valuable to the Board.

Lake Mead Bridge. | Sinjin Eberle
Lake Mead Bridge. | Sinjin Eberle

This action by Governor Ducey is a positive step towards inclusiveness and signals a clear desire to fairly represent all Arizona water users in important, upcoming water policy decisions. Arizona tribes for a long time have shown their willingness to be leaders in water management and work with their neighbors to find solutions that benefit the Colorado River system as a whole. Mr. Lewis’ appointment to the CAWCD Board is a new opportunity for tribes to continue demonstrating water management leadership in the state.

Solutions to Arizona’s water issues will take cooperation, collaboration, and creativity. These two announcements illustrate a spirit of innovation, and urgency, that will be required to ensure the region’s water sustainability in the future. We applaud Governor Ducey’s continued leadership in Arizona water, and we look forward to working with him on these issues.

This story was developed in collaboration between American Rivers and the Environmental Defense Fund.

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